Giveaways Inspirations and Influences YA Appreciation Month 2010

Guest Authors & Giveaway: Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson on Inspirations and Influences

“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The cool thing is that the writers are given free reign so they can go wild and write about anything they want. It can be about their new book, series or about their career as a whole.

Today’s guests are Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson, writers of the lovely and fun MG novel The Familiars. The book tells the tale of 3 familiars – magical animal companions – the cat Aldwyn, the blue jay Skylar and tree frog Gilbert and how the fate of their loyals (magical human companions) and possibly of the whole land depend on them. The novel releases in early September and is also soon to be made in a major motion picture, produced by Sam Raimi. We are delighted to have the authors here today talking about their influences and to give away two copies of the book.

Without further ado, Adam and Andrew, everybody!

Sometimes, you don’t realize how someone influences and changes your life until years later. When I was in seventh grade, I had an English teacher give me an assignment to write the first ten pages of a sequel to Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth. Now, I knew very little about Chinese farmers other than what I had read in the book. But it didn’t seem to matter. Over the next few nights, I felt as if I was Wang Lung with new plights, hardships and victories. By the time I had finished the assignment, I felt as if something special had happened, as if the story had written itself.

A week later, the teacher handed back the graded paper. There, on the top, was a bright red A+ from a teacher who wasn’t even keen on giving As. It was a boost of confidence, an affirmation that I could write creatively and convincingly. It felt great.

Then, I went to my next class. Science. And I let the paper slip from my mind.

Eight grade. Ninth grade. Tenth grade. Didn’t think about it.

Then to college. Other things occupied my thoughts.

It was in my junior year, when I was starting to consider being a writer,that I thought back on that paper. And her bright red A+.

“I could do this,” I thought to myself.

I never got to thank my 7th grade English teacher for her encouragement and that assignment. So, I will now.

Thank you, Mrs. Winer.

–Adam Jay Epstein


I grew up in the early 1980s in one of those idyllic suburban towns with only one movie theater – the kind that played the same movie for up to a year at a time. When I was just 4, that movie was “Star Wars.” It had been re-released in theaters in 1981, and it was not just the first movie I ever saw on the big screen, but the second and third and fourth, too. To further my obsession, I also collected every last action figure and vehicle from the “Star Wars” trilogy that I could get my hands on. I remember my mom even bribing me to take swimming lessons with the promise of a Boba Fett Slave 1 starship. And taking medication for chronic childhood ear aches always went down a little easier with a new x-wing fighter or Jabba the Hut palace.

My favorite hobby as a kid was playing shows with my action figures. I spent countless hours in every corner of the house with a Han Solo in one hand and a Darth Vader in the other. That’s where my imagination was born, I think. Making up stories about good guys and bad guys, jedi knights and evil lords. It wasn’t just “Star Wars,” either. I had superheroes, GI Joes, and WWF wrestlers joining the living room adventures, as well. Then I started translating those epic tales to paper, in the earliest days without using quotation marks for dialogue!

I guess I’ve always been drawn to hero’s journeys. Whether it’s Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, Harry Potter, or Peter Parker, the possibility of even the most ordinary everyman becoming extraordinary is a timeless and irresistible tale. And “The Familiars” is a story not so different: about the unlikeliest of heroes rising up against insurmountable odds and finding greatness within them.

–Andrew Jacobson

About the authors: ADAM JAY EPSTEIN spent his childhood in Great Neck, New York, while ANDREW JACOBSON grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but the two met in a parking garage out in Los Angeles. They have been writing for film and television together ever since. This is their first book.

One day, Adam asked Andrew, “Are you familiar with what a familiar is?” And from that simple question, Vastia was born, a fantastical world filled with the authors’ shared love of animals and magic. They wrote every word, sentence, and page together, sitting opposite each other.

Adam Jay Epstein lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Jane, their daughters, Penny and Olive, and a black-and-white alley cat who hangs out in their backyard. Andrew Jacobson lives with his wife, Ashley, and their dog, Elvis, four traffic lights away.

About the book:

Running to save his life, Aldwyn, the street-wise orphan cat, ducks into a strange store. Moments later Jack, a young wizard-in-training, comes in to pick out his familiar – a magical animal companion. Aldwyn’s always been clever. But magical? Apparently Jack thinks so—and Aldwyn is happy to play along. Anything to get out of town!

Once home with Jack in Stone Runlet, Aldwyn thinks that he’s got it made—a life of ease with a boy who loves him. He just has to convince the other familiars—the know-it-all blue jay Skylar and the friendly tree frog Gilbert–that he’s the telekinetic cat he claims to be.

Then, after the sky lights up with an omen, the unthinkable happens. Jack and the other young wizards are captured by the evil queen of Vastia. Together Aldwyn, Skylar and Gilbert must save them—but how?

On their thrilling quest across the land, the familiars will face dangerous foes, unearth a shocking centuries old secret, and discover a mysterious destiny that will change them all forever.

You can read more about the book at the website The Familiars.


We have TWO ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) of The Familiars up for grabs. The contest is open to ALL, and will run until Saturday, August 21st at 11:59 PM (PST). To enter, simply leave a comment here letting us know which animal would you pick as a familiar. ONLY ONE ENTRY PER PERSON, PLEASE! Multiple comments will be disqualified. We will announce the winners in our Sunday stash. Good luck!

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  • Gerd D.
    August 19, 2010 at 6:07 am

    Judged by the cover (which is squeeing cute, by the way), I would pick a frog like that.
    Someone who’s got such curious looking eyes must be a born familiar.

  • Lisa Potts
    August 19, 2010 at 6:09 am

    Great contest, ladies, and the book sounds great, gentlemen.

    I’m allergic to cats so I’d have to say my choice for a familiar would be a dog. Kinda boring, huh?

    Thanks again!

  • Natasha M. Heck
    August 19, 2010 at 6:32 am

    I love kitties, so I would definitely will have to pick the traditional kitty cat. I would like a fluffy black or a black/white kitty (like two cats that I have had in my life who would be perfect for the role). Or, if I want to break out of that, a silver panther would be cool too.

  • Heather F.
    August 19, 2010 at 6:40 am

    It looks adorable! I would pick a black-capped chickadee for a familiar: small enough for a pocket, able to get in and out of tight places, and cute to boot.

  • Lynne
    August 19, 2010 at 6:53 am

    Since I too am allergic to cats, I will pick a pocket Dragon. If that is currently unavailable, than a Wolf.

  • Lisa
    August 19, 2010 at 7:14 am

    Looks like a good book, I would have to choose a bird of some sort, maybe a parrot with beautiful colours.

  • Megan
    August 19, 2010 at 7:53 am

    I would have to pick a cat. Boring, but I love them!

  • Eva SB
    August 19, 2010 at 7:57 am

    I would choose a gecko. I think they are so cool hanging around all over the place. It would also make them excellent at spying. Also he would be small enough that I could slip him in my pocket if necessary.

  • Sheila
    August 19, 2010 at 8:19 am

    I would choose a cat to be my familiar, OF COURSE (help, my cat is forcing me to write this!)!

  • Donna
    August 19, 2010 at 8:21 am

    My familiar would be a meerkat—I don’t know why, I just like them!

  • Mieneke
    August 19, 2010 at 8:25 am

    I’d pick a fox, cause they’re quick and clever 😀

  • ello
    August 19, 2010 at 8:49 am

    Would love to get this book! And my familiar would be a tiger cause it’s a big cat but it also doubles as protection.

  • D.M. Cunningham
    August 19, 2010 at 8:57 am

    I would pick a Pygmy Three-toed Sloth. No one would ever expect me to be a familiar, thus, I would get away with all kinds of Mayhem.

  • Kris
    August 19, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Oh me me! I’ve been wanting to get my hands on this one LOL! I would have to say that I would go with the oh so-not-suprising cat….I have two cats and one loves me more so hmmm? Yep, Cat. Thanks for the great interview and giveaway!

  • Gina
    August 19, 2010 at 9:03 am

    Great contest! As soon as I heard about this book, I knew it was gonna be good. Magic, danger, and some friendly familiars to guide readers on their way. Can’t wait! As for my familiar, if going with one in the book, the cat for certain…if not, definitely a dog. Grant it, not that imaginative, but definitely a great fit…loyal, friendly, trustworthy…and cute.


  • Susan Kaye Quinn
    August 19, 2010 at 9:10 am

    I would love to win The Familiars! And def a cat would be my choice. 🙂

  • John
    August 19, 2010 at 9:11 am

    I’d pick a unicorn, because reading Zombies vs. Unicorns has me in that mindset. Not to mention:

    1) It has a horn, which will provide many good, drunken jokes

    2) It is magical

    3) I could still ride it. After some things…I’d probably trade it in for a cat. But until then – UNICORN.

  • Becca
    August 19, 2010 at 9:16 am

    This book sounds fantastic! As for my familiar, I would have to go for the pygmy house-hippo (found only in Canada)-clean, quiet, and pocket-sized 🙂

  • Hannah
    August 19, 2010 at 9:26 am

    Ring-tailed lemur. No question. I’ve loved them my entire life, since a wildlife man came to my school when I was seven and put a little one on my shoulder. It pulled my hair and I fell in love and there’s no other animal I’d consider.

    And here’s to English teachers who inspire us – I will never forget Richard, who encouraged my obsession with the most random of literature and didn’t question my decision to write essays in the most abstract way possible.

  • Heloise
    August 19, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Um, a Lithuanien mongoose or a prairie dog. No, really. 😀

  • Jessica Kocan
    August 19, 2010 at 9:37 am

    Hello my book loving friends,
    I think I’d choose a hedgehog because they’re extremely cute but can turn into a ball of nastiness when scared or provoked.
    Thanks! 😛

  • Sandy G
    August 19, 2010 at 10:07 am

    I’d pick a cat.

  • carol
    August 19, 2010 at 10:27 am

    I’d have to go with an adorable tiny white cat.

  • Kaethe
    August 19, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Going to go with cat, since we just added two more to the household. In fact, Calder is a tuxedo, just like the cover.

    But I would have to give serious consideration to otters, for those water skills, bats for the sonar bonus, and red pandas for the unbearable cuteness. And if I can choose extinct critters then I’d like a thylacine or a five-foot-tall Peruvian penguin.

  • Lexi
    August 19, 2010 at 10:38 am

    I’d want a Tokay geckos because they are orange and blue and bite.

  • danielle
    August 19, 2010 at 10:43 am

    do unicorns count as animals?

  • Viki S.
    August 19, 2010 at 10:47 am

    My familiar would be some form of feline. I am a Leo and a Tiger so a feline makes sense.

  • kemendraugh
    August 19, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Yeah, definitely a cat. Or…a ferret. I really like ferrets 😀 And they’re so twiney!

  • Nicole
    August 19, 2010 at 11:39 am

    I would want my familiar to be a cat. He/She would be my adorable familiar. I would really like that.

  • Teresa W.
    August 19, 2010 at 11:41 am

    My favorite animal is dolphins so that would be my choice!

  • Heather Gardner
    August 19, 2010 at 11:44 am

    I’d love this!! I’d want to be a hedgehog

  • Emily H.
    August 19, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    I would pick a dog as my familiar.

  • Julie
    August 19, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    I’d pick a dog as my familiar 🙂

  • MeganS
    August 19, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    This book sounds excellent! I’m a fan of frogs, so that’d be my pick for a familiar.

  • Debbie
    August 19, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    My familiar would be the wise owl! The book sounds like a great fun read!

  • Caroline
    August 19, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    something that flies I think, although I’d like furry too…a bat!

  • Jufuzle19
    August 19, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    definitely a platypus! 🙄 just saying…

  • butterfly wishes and wonderland dreams
    August 19, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    I would pick a wolf!

  • Adelina
    August 19, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Oh a white owl would be cool. Or a snake so it can hide in my jacket or just hangout around my neck. Plus he can slither through tight spaces, that’ll come in handy.

  • Laarni Lopez
    August 19, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    I would like to have a Siberian tiger for a familiar! I sure hope I win! Thanks!

  • Cecilia
    August 19, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    I’ve never heard of a lion being familiar but it would be so cool if it would be possible. I think lions are the most beautiful creatures so I would choose one to be my familiar.
    I’ve also seen this book around quite a bit. I’m interested. 🙂

  • Kate A
    August 19, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    I’d want a ferret as my familiar 😀

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  • stacey ashlund
    August 19, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    I would be a hummingbird – I just finished reading another great book w/ my 11 yr old – “The Underneath” so those animals are fresh in mind.

  • Robin K
    August 19, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    A dragon! No really, a panther. Yah that’s it!

  • sue brandes
    August 19, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    I would pick a cat. They are mysterious and wonderous. 😀

  • Doreen R
    August 19, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    My familiar would be a bear. Thanks. 😛 😯

  • Victoria Zumbrum
    August 19, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    I would pick a cat. Please enter me in contest.

  • Stephanie
    August 19, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    An owl, I think. While she wasn’t a familiar, how cool was Hedwig in Harry Potter?
    And this book looks great, I’d love to win a copy 😀

  • Jasmine A S
    August 19, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    A cat, I think, since we could get along when not being magical. 😀 While frogs are awesome, I’ve never gotten along too well with them after protracted exposure. OH OR A TINY BABY DRAGON. So long as I could have some fireproof ointment.

  • Lethea Benson
    August 19, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    I’ve always loved owls & would choose an Elf Owl as a familiar 🙂

  • Mrs. DeRaps
    August 19, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    An owl, for sure. They are my favorite birds and are super intriguing to me. I definitely believe that they are wise and have powers.

    Great interviews, great giveaway.

  • Kate N. (Yzhabella)
    August 19, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    I’d like a gecko for my familiar! There are small and cute and therefor easily underestimated. They could prove a very useful weapon!

    Thank you for this event!

  • Allison
    August 19, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    My familiar would be a cat of course!

  • Tina
    August 19, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    I’d either want something small like a frog or a monkey or something strong, lithe, and lethal like a panther. At the moment, I’m leaning towards a panther. Probably because my obnoxiously large black cat is waddling his way towards me (sadly, not a panther. Just a kitty whose been hitting the chow pretty hard as of late and moving a lot less. So not lithe and lethal).
    Or maybe a baby dragon like Kit from Tamora Pierce’s Immortal series? Drat, I’ll never make up my mind at this rate.

    Thanks for the chance to win!

  • Mariska
    August 19, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    My familiar would be Cats ! 🙂

  • Stephanie K.
    August 19, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    My familiar would be a fox.

  • vidhya
    August 19, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    I will pick a (unoriginal) wolf! I’ve been wanting a familiar a long time (:P) but its been a wolf ever since I played Torchlight game last year. Love the wolf in that!

  • SaraC
    August 19, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    I would go with the classic, a cat.

  • Ash L
    August 19, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    I would want a ferret as a famaliar! Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Jennifer R
    August 19, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    Even though it may seem like the obvious choice, I would have to choose my favorite animal – the cat!

  • Carol Thompson
    August 19, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    I am a traditionalist so I would pick a cat as my familiar.

    The book sounds like a lot of fun so please enter me in the giveaway.

    Thanks for opening it up to worldwide entries.

    Carol T

  • LAMusing
    August 20, 2010 at 12:14 am

    I’d pick a squirrel

  • cories
    August 20, 2010 at 12:23 am

    Maybe a hawk? Although I love dogs, I’d like a familiar who can fly and check out surrounding areas from up high. Of course, I hope I wouldn’t have to get a special license to have a hawk around.


  • Christina G
    August 20, 2010 at 12:24 am

    Well, if i choose cat, my dogs will be whiney jealous and if I choose dog, my cats will give me attitude. Hmmm… catdog? 🙂

  • Alexandra D.
    August 20, 2010 at 1:29 am

    I’d pick a dog. 😀

  • Grace
    August 20, 2010 at 2:00 am

    I would chose a white bengal tiger, because they’re so unique and exotic and cool. Also they could protect me and give me a speedy ride with my hair flying back.

  • Marco Miranda
    August 20, 2010 at 3:58 am

    I would choose the tiger just because its like a cat but a big one. what a fantastic animal.

  • Hann1bal
    August 20, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Oh, I think that I’d have to go for a raven, because they’re smart as it is.

  • alana
    August 20, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Unicorn ftw.

  • Audra Holtwick
    August 20, 2010 at 10:57 am

    I am so a cat person and it would have to be a Calico Cat- this is a great contest can’t wait to read the story

  • Janelle
    August 20, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    A chipmunk…as long as it can sing and dance.

  • Lorraine
    August 20, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    I would want to be an eagle so i could soar through the clouds and visit faraway places without purchasing an airline ticket

  • Maggie
    August 20, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    I would like an octopus as my familiar: people underestimate their wicked intelligence. (The cat would also be magical, but would not deign to assist me, though he would be friends with the octopus.)

  • Rebecca
    August 21, 2010 at 7:57 am

    A dog. 🙂

  • Helle M. Larsen
    August 21, 2010 at 8:47 am

    I’d pick a stoat – they’re so super-cute! 😀

  • Anonymous
    August 21, 2010 at 10:29 am

    I’d probably pick the blue jay, because he or she could go where i couldn’t (the sky is his limit), delivering urgent messages and scouting the territory ahead. 🙂

  • Katy F.
    August 21, 2010 at 10:59 am

    I think I’d pick a bird of some kind–like a woodpecker or a blue jay. 🙂

  • Nian
    August 21, 2010 at 11:01 am

    A monkey a la Curious George! My younger brother loves the show, so when I watch it with me, I’m often thinking about how cool it’d be to have a monkey like George following me around all day and making me laugh.

  • Nastassia
    August 21, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    I would choose a dog 🙂

  • Angelique
    August 21, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    I’d have to go with a cat since I have 2 already or an owl because I’ve always been kinda obsessed with them =)

  • Breanne M.
    August 21, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    I’m a complete dog person so it has to be some kind of dog, or maybe a wolf.

  • MarieC
    August 21, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Definately a member of the Canidae family!

  • Carrie at In the Hammock Blog
    August 25, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    I’d love to enter!! I’d pick a cat!!

    thank you for the contest!

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